Five Caribbean writers shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Kwame McPherson

Stories submitted by writers from Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas have been shortlisted for the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The stories are The Ovelias at Benzie Hill Dump by Alexia Tolas (Bahamas), Where The Winds Blow by Cosmata Lindie (Guyana), Road Trip and Fall by Demoy Lindo (Jamaica), Ocoee by Kwame McPherson (Jamaica) and Teef From Teef by Deborah Matthews (Trinidad and Tobago).

These stories are among 28 outstanding stories that have been shortlisted by an international judging panel for the world’s most global literature prize.

The writers come from 19 countries across the Commonwealth, and the shortlisted entries tackle subjects from illness, human trafficking and decay, to relationships and hope – as well as family secrets, growing up gay in a hostile world,

Alexia Tolas

generation gaps, bittersweet friendships, and making one’s way in the world of work. They span genres from speculative and comic fiction to historical fiction and crime.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 56 Member States.

It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.

Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions. In 2023, 475 entries were submitted in languages other than English.

The stories on the 2023 shortlist were selected from a total of 6,642 entries from 56 Commonwealth countries including, for the first time, Togo and Gabon—the very newest members of the Commonwealth.  The shortlisted writers—10 men and 18 women—range in age from 20 to 74.

Chair of the Judges, Pakistani writer and translator Bilal Tanweer said: “On behalf of the jury, I am thrilled to reveal the shortlist for the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Deborah Matthews
Cosmata Lindie

“These stories perform the essential function of the best fiction: they make us see what we couldn’t see, awaken our sympathies for people we didn’t know, and bring us closer to the world we already inhabit. What we see here are writers, who with their varied styles and strategies, stretch our sense of the real. These stories, like music, go clean through our gut and spine, filling us with sensations ranging from dysphoric anguish to euphoric laughter, and after reading each story, we wake up to the world, changed.”

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, commended all 6,642 citizens of the Commonwealth who entered stories in 2023, offering special congratulations to the 28 writers who made the

Demoy Lindo

shortlist in a highly competitive year.

Dr Gallagher added: “The Foundation is proud of the Short Story Prize: proud of what it reveals of the richness of Commonwealth culture; proud of its reach into all Commonwealth countries; and proud of the role that the prize plays in unearthing and nurturing emerging talent. Working so closely with civil society, we see, every day, the power of storytelling to challenge, to inspire, and to help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us.”